Page last updated at 04:03 GMT, Tuesday, 21 October 2008 05:03 UK

Famous music venue's final curtain

By Tom Warren
BBC News

The Astoria
The Astoria, opened in the 1920s, was originally a cinema

It is one of the most famous music venues in London that has hosted acts including The Rolling Stones, Nirvana, U2 and Madonna.

But the Astoria Theatre, in Charing Cross Road, will soon be knocked down for the city's 16bn Crossrail project.

Despite a campaign to save it which attracted thousands of supporters, a compulsory purchase order (CPO) for the building, along with 12 others nearby, has now been issued.

They will make way for work on a huge extension of Tottenham Court Road station, which is a central part of the scheme to link Maidenhead in Berkshire and Shenfield in Essex, via Heathrow airport and central London.

It's very worrying that the Astoria could be demolished without any guarantees of a proper replacement
The Theatres Trust

It could mean the final curtain for the music venue as early as January next year.

Built in 1927, the Astoria was converted from an old warehouse.

Originally a cinema, the venue could seat up to 2,000 people and films were shown there for nearly 50 years.

In 1976 live theatre productions began to be staged at the Astoria.

But it was in later years, when the building was transformed into a music venue, that it really found fame.

And as well as gigs, it was the home of G-A-Y club nights for more than 15 years which attracted the likes of Madonna, Girls Aloud and Kylie Minogue.

'Main venue'

Bryan Grimmer, who has worked on the Astoria's ticket desk for 16 years, said the venue's intimacy had made it popular with some of the world's biggest-selling music acts.

"The 80s and 90s were probably its heyday," he said.

"It's more than a 1,500 capacity but you're nice and close. It's not like Wembley where you can be at the other end and it's like looking at ants on the stage.

"It will be a loss, it's the main central London gig venue.

"We've got a nice line-up between now and Christmas, but there's a possibility we could be coming down from January onwards."

Mr Grimmer said a campaign to save the Astoria had begun several years ago, but added he did not think the building had a future.

Madonna at the Astoria
Madonna is one of many famous artists to have performed at the Astoria

The Theatres Trust, which campaigns on behalf of arts venues across the UK, has raised concerns about the Astoria's demolition.

Director Mhora Samuel said: "The Crossrail draft planning brief says there will be a replacement theatre.

"But they intend to replace the 1,600-capacity Astoria with a much smaller 250-seat theatre.

"The Theatres Trust strongly objects to this. As well as being a huge loss to the cultural vitality of London's West End, which drives its economy, it goes against Westminster's planning policy.

"Given the slump in the property market and the subsequent hole in Crossrail finances, it's also very worrying that the Astoria could be demolished without any guarantees of a proper replacement."

Developer Derwent London owns the site on which the Astoria is situated and plans to redevelop the area once the Crossrail project is completed.

A spokesman said plans, for a mix of retail and housing, were at an early stage and still being drawn up.

A Crossrail spokeswoman said any decision to replace the Astoria with a new venue would be up to Derwent, after the rail scheme's completion.




SEE ALSO
MPs pass Crossrail project bill
23 Jul 08 |  London
Plan to help London music venues
17 Dec 07 |  Entertainment
Rock history landmarks celebrated
05 Feb 07 |  Entertainment

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